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Old 11-28-2019, 02:16 AM
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Green card questions


I'm writing a novel -- or, more precisely, I like to think I'm writing a novel. This is the rough timeline of what some of my characters go through. I've done enough research on these questions to get answers, but I'm not sure if they're the right answers. Are they?

2000: Mom is Belgian, becomes pregnant in 2000 during a one-night stand. Dad is British and disappears.

2001: Twin daughters born in Belgium. They're Belgian and EU citizens by birth. If/whenever Mom could find the dad, they would have UK citizenship.

2002: Mom starts seeing guy from US. They get married in Belgium.

2004: Family moves to US. Mom is able to get a green card for herself and her daughters. She's not interested in US citizenship for herself or them, thinking that she wants to keep her options open.

2006: Stepdad dies. I think the family can stay in the US indefinitely, but I'm not 100% sure.

2019: Daughters turn 18. They could become US citizens at that time, but they would lose their Belgian citizenship. They could keep their green card and Belgian citizenship indefinitely instead.

2020: Mom and one daughter move to France for daughter's job. They would lose their green card.

Does all of this look correct?
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Old 11-28-2019, 02:52 AM
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Nitpick on item for 2001: Under UK law in force the the time, the Belgian-born twins would only inherit UK citizenship from their father if he had been married to their mother, which of course he wasn't. The mother "finding" the father would have made no difference, unless the finding was followed by a wedding. (And even then the ability of the UK-citizen father to pass on his UK citizenship to the twins would depend on his being in the class of UK citizens who can pass on their citizenship to foreign-born children, which is not apparent from the details you give.)

As the father wasn't married to the mother, the girls' birth with a UK citizen father in 2001 doesn't entitle them to UK citizenship; it only entitles them to apply for UK citizenship, which is a subtle but important distinction. Again, the application could not succeed unless the father was UK citizen who could pass on citizenship to foreign-born children. But the application in this case would not depend on the father being found; just on establishing that he was in fact the father.

(Yes, UK citizenship law is insanely complicated.)

This probably doesn't matter greatly, since the salient point in your story is that the girls aren't UK citizens, which is correct.

Item for 2019: It used to the case that a Belgian citizen would lose Belgian citizenship if they voluntarily obtained the citizenship of another country, but this was changed in 2008. If the twins were naturalised in the US in 2019, this would not affect their Belgian (or EU) citizenship. This may be important to your story if the girls are motivated not to apply for US citizenship out of a fear of losing Belgian/EU citizenship.
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Old 11-28-2019, 05:01 AM
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Thanks for that information! You're right that they were worried about losing Belgian citizenship; knowing that, I don't see why the girls wouldn't apply for US citizenship at 18. (I had read the British and Belgian nationality law pages on Wikipedia; I guess I need to work on understanding them, since what you said definitely seems to match what they say.)
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Old 11-28-2019, 10:57 AM
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If you've been doing your research you probably know this, but I thought I'd mention it as it doesn't appear in your timeline:

First, you have the stepdad dying two years after the woman gets a Green Card. Exactly when they got married and when he dies is important. If you get permanent residency based on a marriage that is less than two years old, your Green Card is conditional, and you have to apply to have the conditions removed (Form I-751); the children would have to be included on the petition. If you fail to file the petition within a 90-day window before the second anniversary of your marriage, the government begins removal proceedings.

Also, Green Cards, even non-conditional ones, have to be renewed every ten years, so your Belgian characters would need to file for renewal (Form I-90) in 2014. This procedure is generally a rather straightforward and pro-forma exercise—I know, because I went through it myself earlier this year—but if your renewal application raises any flags, there is the possibility of having the Green Card taken away. The renewal process requires submission of a form (along with $455), a new set of biometrics (another $80 or 90), and a visit to a processing center with your documentation.

Last edited by mhendo; 11-28-2019 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 11-28-2019, 04:26 PM
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My notes say that the mom and stepdad got married in March 2002 and moved to the US in August 2004. I donít remember if I realized that could be an issue if they werenít married for long enough or if I just got lucky. (I did the immigration research a couple of months ago and only recorded my conclusions.)

The mom has a job as a registered nurse; all of the family stayed out of legal trouble. I didnít think that the green card renewal would be an issue, although I didnít realize it was quite that expensive. $1600 or so would be a significant expenditure for them; I should probably bring that up at some point.

Thanks!
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Old 11-28-2019, 08:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Kimble View Post
Thanks for that information! You're right that they were worried about losing Belgian citizenship; knowing that, I don't see why the girls wouldn't apply for US citizenship at 18. (I had read the British and Belgian nationality law pages on Wikipedia; I guess I need to work on understanding them, since what you said definitely seems to match what they say.)
If the girls and their mother had been in the US since 2004, it's possible they might not have been aware of the 2008 change in Belgian citizenship law. Perhaps at the time of the move the mother looked into what would be involved if she were ever to become a US citizen, and noted that it would result in the loss of Belgian citizenship. She might have maintained that understanding and in due course passed it on to her daughters, who had no reason to doubt it. So in 2019 they might have feared that acquiring US citizenship would result in the loss of Belgian citizenship, something they had always understood was the case, and it might simply never have occurred to them to revisit the basis for this understanding.

Plus, the US naturalisation process requires people to make a declaration in which (among other things) they renounce allegiance to foreign states and sovereignties. This tends to reinforce a fairly common assumption that being naturalised as a US citizen will terminate your foreign citizenship. In fact the declaration has no effect in this regard; if you want to renounce, e.g., Belgian citizenship you have to go through the processes laid down by Belgian law for this purpose.

So, between one thing and another, it's not implausible that in 2019 the twins might have the understanding that acquiring US citizenship would result in the loss of Belgian citizenship. But that understanding would be wrong.
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Old 12-03-2019, 01:44 PM
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Originally Posted by mhendo View Post
....
Also, Green Cards, even non-conditional ones, have to be renewed every ten years, so your Belgian characters would need to file for renewal (Form I-90) in 2014. This procedure is generally a rather straightforward and pro-forma exerciseóI know, because I went through it myself earlier this yearóbut if your renewal application raises any flags, there is the possibility of having the Green Card taken away. The renewal process requires submission of a form (along with $455), a new set of biometrics (another $80 or 90), and a visit to a processing center with your documentation.
A side comment on that:

A relative is an immigration attorney and this topic came up at a family gathering last year. The general advice for people with a green card is that they should actually become citizens as soon as possible, versus planning to remain as permanent residents forever. The reasoning is that it's much easier for the government to revoke a green card and deport you if they wish, than to revoke citizenship.

This was in the context of people committing criminal acts in the US, or having committed them in another country. If you are a citizen and you commit a crime here, you are unlikely to lose your citizenship; if you are a green card holder, you might have that revoked and get sent back to your original country.

If you have become a citizen, and somehow it comes to light that you did Very Bad Things before you got here, and lied about / concealed them, you could be deemed to have obtained citizenship fraudulently, then all bets are off. I think you'd do time for any illegal acts you committed here (presumably including charges of immigration fraud), then get deported to face some serious unpleasantness there.

None of this is germane to the OP's scenario, I presume, but it was a fairly interesting topic at the gathering.
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Old 12-04-2019, 01:13 AM
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Aren't there tax implications of becoming a US citizen? I remember reading that some non-US banks are getting rid of US clients because they don't want the increasing hassle of dealing with US tax authorities.

Edit: FATCA. It's more complicated than I thought. The regulations apply to US residents, including green card holders, as well as US citizens overseas.
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Old 12-05-2019, 02:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Sunspace View Post
Aren't there tax implications of becoming a US citizen? I remember reading that some non-US banks are getting rid of US clients because they don't want the increasing hassle of dealing with US tax authorities.

Edit: FATCA. It's more complicated than I thought. The regulations apply to US residents, including green card holders, as well as US citizens overseas.
I'd heard that there are relatively few institutions that will let a US citizen open an account, precisely because of this requirement. But I've always been baffled at how the US government can require a non-US financial institution to do ANYTHING. What's their leverage here? Why should the institution comply?

Someone once suggested that if it's a bank that also does business in / with the US, they might risk having their US-controlled assets seized. But if I spent time in another country, and opened an account at a small local bank there, why should that bank do anything about it?
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Old 12-05-2019, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimble View Post
2019: Daughters turn 18. They could become US citizens at that time, but they would lose their Belgian citizenship. They could keep their green card and Belgian citizenship indefinitely instead.
I'm not sure why they would be able to become US citizens when they turn 18, if neither of their parents are US citizens?

Also, I though the US and UK both allowed dual citizenship?
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Old 12-05-2019, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
I'd heard that there are relatively few institutions that will let a US citizen open an account, precisely because of this requirement. But I've always been baffled at how the US government can require a non-US financial institution to do ANYTHING. What's their leverage here? Why should the institution comply?

Someone once suggested that if it's a bank that also does business in / with the US, they might risk having their US-controlled assets seized. But if I spent time in another country, and opened an account at a small local bank there, why should that bank do anything about it?
Because it becomes part of the settlement. Aka, when a bank which operates in both the U.S. and Switzerland, screws up (Swiss banks were helping U.S. citizens hide income from the IRS), the legal fallout means that every bank in Switzerland is required to make sure their customers who are U.S. citizens or green card holders, follow the U.S. rules.

For this reason, I had to provide a copy of a W-9 to my bank. Every bank in Switerland will ask the applicant if they are a U.S. citizen or green card holder. Most banks will immediately deny the applicant if the answer is yes. There are few exceptions, and most of them are banks which operate both in the U.S. and Switzerland.

FATCA sucks. Paying taxes to the U.S., when I haven't lived there for years, also sucks.

Read up on FATCA.

Of course, if the characters have too little money, then the annoyances of the U.S. citizen based taxation and FATCA go away.
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Old 12-05-2019, 01:55 PM
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I'm not sure why they would be able to become US citizens when they turn 18, if neither of their parents are US citizens?
Permanent residents over the age of 18 can apply for citizenship if they otherwise qualify, regardless of what their parents do or donít do.

Quote:

Also, I though the US and UK both allowed dual citizenship?
AFAIK this is correct, and if itís not, then one dual US/UK citizen immigration lawyer I know will be mighty surprised. (Sheís Canadian, too.)

Eva Luna, U.S. Immigration Paralegal
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Old 12-05-2019, 02:20 PM
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Of course, if the characters have too little money, then the annoyances of the U.S. citizen based taxation and FATCA go away.
Not completely; even if you don't have to pay you still have to file.
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